How does a poem deal with abstraction? Kirsten Ihns’s ekphrasis of Kim Keever’s lyrical aquarium fantasias is a fouetté on the border of the mimetic and the abstract (much like Keever’s images): is that an island or a dog or merely a figure in the mist? “NEBULA PAINLESS FOAM PET” is interested, I think, in the Rorschach power of suggestion but also in the way that suggestion can spill out to color ordinary domestic scenes and encounters (a great dog, which is like the Heart or Running Dog nebula or an atmospheric cloud-form or a constellation—Canis Majoris). This is a poem in which things “ought naturally to give off ideas of conjunction” (a Marianne Moore-ish sort of phrase)—and yet, these conjunctions are often swimming against the prose sense of things rather than with them. There is a particular pathos in those times when joining things together doesn’t seem to guarantee their significance or stability. Conjunction and metamorphosis are sometimes uneasy associates, bound together like the artists in Tehching Hsieh and Linda Montano’s Rope Piece. One has some sympathy with the dog in this poem, who’s been up all night trying to sleep through these unsettling dreams; one has some sympathy with the dreams who are trying to sleep in the dog. The “i” is like the “i” of dreams, as you will know if you have ever remembered a dream, as you will know if you have ever forgotten one. 

—Rebecca Ariel Porte



Kim Keever, Abstract 10245b (2014), c-print. Courtesy of Tillou Fine Art.





great dog undoubtedly connected and luminous

            medical food, it’s a tennis pink

            rises v lively inside some hoses

                                    i love so much these shapes and motions

                                                i make a cloud, i name it

                                                Transparent and Humorless, Nutritious

            it’s a froufrou of stuffs

                                    fog and everybody quietly think

                        pain brooks no distances

                                                BUT can be distinguished from itself with large instruments

                                    set upon the ground in their tin containers

                                    i say “take a bath” and she proceeds to wash the bath

                        rigorous, a rag

                                    it feels like a filmic like an opportune time—

            & ought naturally give off ideas of conjunction

            i find precise fences where the animal ceases

            lie down inside them, spreading my wonders

            the birdseed, &

  i am the increase wild jaguar

            finally free from pet jaguar

                        then ruined, selling the furniture

                                       1. the coral north
                                       2. coral hearth
                                       3. coral tortoise

                        all of it free

when we arrive at the vegetable kingdom

                        descending the stairs in the bridal regalia

                        you wanted a fine thing but in a bad way

                        the birds were somewhere i wasn’t there

                        i just mark places where blood should be in the face

            the wasp tacks madly in the breeze for its nest

                        i had the blue teeth face

                        blue teeth cube

                        sh sh, says the isolate dog

                        who has been up all night, trying to sleep

            some of even the stalks are beheaded

                                    in the ice tray